Penticton Vees forward Matteo Costantini celebrated the best day of his young hockey career Wednesday (Oct. 7).
The 18-year-old from St. Catharines, Ont. was selected 131st overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres. Costantini also scored later that day to help the Vees to a 4-0 win over the Vernon Vipers, to put an exclamation point on the young forward’s memorable day.
Costantini came into the draft as the highest-ranked BCHL prospect, so it came as no surprise when he was the first name from the league to be taken off the board when the Sabres took him in the fifth round.
The centre-man is already familiar with the city of Buffalo as he spent the 2019-20 campaign playing for the Buffalo Junior Sabres of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, as well as the 2018-19 season with the Jr. Sabres’ 16U team. Costantini would finish both seasons as his team’s leading scorer.
Costantini was watching the draft from his billet house in Penticton with teammates Josh and Jackson Niedermayer when he saw his name pop-up on the TV screen. He said he’ll remember the moment for the rest of his life.
“It’s definitely exciting, for sure. It still doesn’t really feel real but I’m super pumped,” said Costantini. “Especially being kind of like a hometown kid and playing in Buffalo last year, it’s definitely a surreal feeling.”
Costantini has gotten off to a hot start in his first season with the Vees. He’s put up three goals and six assists for nine points through the Vees’ first five games of the Okanagan Cup. Costantini and Vees teammate Quinn Hutson are currently tied for the league lead in points.
Costantini will continue his development in the NCAA next year at the University of North Dakota.
A pair of Chilliwack Chiefs forwards — Kienan Draper and Ethan Bowen — were the only other two current BCHL players selected in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Draper was selected by the Detroit Red Wings 187th overall and Bowen by the Anaheim Ducks with the 207th pick.